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Immigration Minister Jason Kenney waits to testify before a Senate committee in Ottawa on on June 18, 2012.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has privately apologized to Alberta Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk for calling him a "complete and utter asshole" in an e-mail that has further strained relations between the province's federal and provincial Conservatives.

Mr. Kenney repeatedly refused to apologize in the House of Commons on Tuesday, stating that his government had a "strong working relationship" with the Alberta government.

However, his office revealed afterward that Mr. Kenney and Mr. Lukaszuk have had a private conversation about the matter.

"The Minister spoke with Minister Lukaszuk to apologize for the email message," spokesman Alexis Pavlich said.

Mr. Pavlich added that Mr. Kenney underscored "that he looks forward to continuing with the positive working relationship between the Alberta and federal governments."

During Question Period, the NDP and the Liberals called on Mr. Kenney to withdraw his attack against Alberta Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk.

Edmonton New Democrat Linda Duncan said Mr. Kenney's comments were so reprehensible and offensive that they could not be repeated in the House.

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae called on Mr. Kenney to stop digging his own hole and to apologize.

"Why is that so hard?" Mr. Rae said.

Standing up a number of times in the House, Mr. Kenney repeated that his government is defending his home province against opposition attempts to shut down the oil sands and create a new long-gun registry. He added that he won 76 per cent of the votes in his riding in the last election.

The Immigration Minister had sent an email to his colleagues in the Conservative Party's Alberta caucus last week, after the office of MP Blaine Calkins sent out an invitation to meet with Mr. Lukaszuk.

Mr. Kenney said he was not interested, even misspelling the deputy premier's name.

"I say a definite 'no' to Lukaszyk. I don't think it makes sense to create a precedent to do a special caucus meeting for every visiting minister from the provincial government. Plus he is a complete and utter asshole," Mr. Kenney wrote.

The existence of the email was first revealed by the Edmonton Journal, which accurately quoted the electronic exchange, a Conservative source said.

The missive illustrates growing tensions between federal and provincial Tories in Alberta. The divisions were already obvious during the last provincial election in which many members of the Conservative Party of Canada favoured the Wildrose Party at the expense of Alison Redford's Progressive Conservatives.